The Army All-American game means something much deeper to some of the players on the roster — those whose family members served in the Army.
Like Scout.com three-star linebacker and Alabama commit Shaun Hamilton of Carver (Ala.) who's dad is a Lieutenant colonel in the Army.
“My dad was real excited when I got invited to the game, it was definitely and honor for me to sit there and accept it,” Hamilton said. “Getting invited really meant a lot to me because I mean, my dad, I love him and it is something that he would want me to do.”
Plus, the week gave athletes like Station Camp (Tenn.) four-star wide receiver and Tennessee commit Josh Malone, who’s grandfather served, some time to get to know the American heroes that helped out with the game.
“I want to get to know the soldiers and really talk to them and connect with them,” Malone said. “They fight every day for our lives over here. They keep it the same for us here and they’re protecting our freedom.”
Buckeye Valley (Ohio) long snapper and Western Michigan commit Wyatt Pfeifer’s uncle is a Captain in the Army — and was in disbelief when he learned he would get to represent his family like this.
“Well, the first thought was kind of denial that I was going to be able to play in in a game like this. When it really came down to it, it is pretty cool to have a family member that served in the Army and that I get to wear the words ‘U.S. Army’ across my chest,”
Pfeifer said. “Knowing that they are watching us represent them and we represent all the hard work they put in to give us the ability to chase our dreams and perform in a game like this.
“So it means a lot to be able to represent the Army, and I would say it shows them our appreciation of them to be able to play in a game like this.”
Charlotte Catholic (N.C.) four-star running back and North Carolina commit Elijah Hood’s grandpa and aunt served. He knows that sacrifice that they made for him, and is proud to step on the big state to represent that.
“I definitely know what it takes to be in the Army and the sacrifice that they had to make. Both my aunt and my grandpa had to go overseas when they joined the Army. They were away from their families and they had to make that sacrifice for the country,” Hood said. “That is definitely something I take pride in and I knew about just to know my history and my families history and connection with the Army so it definitely made it a little bit better.”
Saturday morning, when Pfeifer and the All-American’s put on the jersey with U.S. Army on the front, it is even more special because of their Army connections.
“It definitely does mean more to play in this game when you have had someone in your family serve, it gives it a purpose,” Pfeifer said. “You aren’t just wearing the Army name. You actually have a family member that you know, that you have been around, It gives you someone to dedicate the game to or just really think about while you have the jersey on.”
The opportunity that being a U.S. Army All-American is something that these high school seniors won’t soon forget.
“It is a great opportunity just to give back, give back to my father and just give back to all the soldiers that protect our country,” Hamilton said.
Contributions by Bill Greene, Brian Dohn and Rachel Klein.